Themes from the Philosophical Scholarship of Sarah Broadie


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Themes from the Philosophical Scholarship of

Sarah Broadie

20-21 February 2020

Eisenberg Room, Second Floor

Sensenbrenner Hall,

Marquette University

1103 W. Wisconsin Avenue

Milwaukee, WI 53233

The 2020 speaker for the annual Aquinas Lectureship at Marquette University (to take place February 23, 2020) is Prof. Sarah Broadie, Professor of Moral Philosophy and Wardlaw Professor at the University of St Andrews.  Her Aquinas Lecture will is entitled "Mathematics in Plato's Republic."  Accompanying Prof. Broadie’s visit we have organized a two-day conference centered on her work (February 20-21).  Prof. Broadie will personally attend the two-day conference and comment on the papers given. 

Day 1 | 20 Feb 2020

Eisenberg Room, Sensenbrenner Hall

9:30-10:00  Light breakfast

10:00-11:15  Mary Spencer Krizan (University of Wisconsin La Crosse)

Distinguishing Principles in Aristotle’s Elemental Transformations

11:15-11:30  Coffee break

11:30-12:45  Aparna Ravilochan (University of Chicago)

Following Broadie to a Revision of Natural Efficient Cause

12:45-2:00  Lunch

2:00-3:15  Christopher Frey (University of South Carolina)

Plato and Aristotle on What Desires Form

3:15-3:20  Break

3:20-4:35  Jessica Moss (New York University)

The Demiurge and the Philosopher-Kings

4:35-4:50  Coffee break

4:50-6:05 Naomi Reshotko (University of Denver)

Anagnke in Plato’s Timeaus

6:05  Reception

7:00  Dinner

Day 2 | 21 Feb 2020

Eisenberg Room, Sensenbrenner Hall

9:00-10:15  David Chan (The University of Alabama at Birmingham)

Choosing for the Sake of the Good

10:15-10:30  Coffee break

10:30-11:45  Edward  Halper (University of Georgia)

Grand Ends?

11:45-11:50  Break

11:50-1:05  Christiana Olfert (Tufts University)

Deliberating About Practical Truth

1:05-2:15  Lunch break

2:15-3:30 Daniel Wolt (Bilkent University)

Phronêsis and Kalokagathia in Eudemian Ethics VIII 3

This event has been organize by Prof. Owen Goldin, Marquette University,  with Prof. Richard Tierney, University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee, and Prof. Richard C. Taylor, Marquette University

Theis event is supported by

The Marquette University Department of Philosophy

Friends of Philosophy

The Rojtman Foundation Lecture Fund

Aquinas Lecture | 23 Feb 2020

3:00 PM Marquette Hall Room 100

3:00  Sarah Broadie (University of St. Andrews)

Mathematics in Plato’s Republic

Conference Abstracts

David Chan, University of Alabama, “Choosing for the Sake of the Good”

Broadie writes that for Aristotle, rational choice (prohairesis) has a dual structure in that it is of X for the sake of Y.  She adds that there is rational choice only if what is aimed at is “the best.” Thus, in evaluating a rational choice, it is not enough to consider whether X is an appropriate means to Y, but also whether Y is indeed the best. “For a rational agent exercising his rationality, the categorical best is the only end that elicits immediate practical response.” Broadie may well be correct that this is Aristotle’s view. But this view of rational choice raises questions about the supreme good that she also has views about.

If rational choice is conceived of in this way, clearly many human agents do not choose, in the strict sense, what they do. The end Y for which they act may or may not be “the best.” Or the end that is used in deliberation to decide what to do may not be a final end. One may ask the agent why this is her end when deliberating about what to do, so there is in theory a process of justification that ultimately reveals the final end. But the final end for this agent need not be the supreme good, which is what Broadie means by “the best.” So, in order for there to be a rational choice, the agent must be deeply reflective when she deliberates about the means (it must ultimately be for the sake of the final end), and in making the supreme good her final end.

The inter-related questions I will examine concern what the agent has to know about the final end to make a rational choice, and whether such knowledge of the end (to the extent necessary for the purpose of choice) is sufficient for her to make a rational choice. To Aristotle’s credit, he differs from Plato on these matters. But the degree he differs depends on how these questions are answered. On an interpretation of Aristotle’s account that brings him closest to Plato, namely the Grand End view, the agent must know the supreme good in its entirety in order to make a rational choice. Broadie has provided compelling reasons for rejecting this view. But then, how does an agent aim at the supreme good in making a rational choice?

Obviously, one can aim at something with only a partial grasp of what the thing is. If the agent sees an intermediate end as good, is that not sufficient for the means to that end to be chosen for the sake of the supreme good? But someone can see this but not be aiming at the good if she acts for the sake of something else. Since so acting would not qualify as making a rational choice (given its dual structure), we need an explication of the rationality of choice that rules this out. An advantage of the Grand End view is that no other thing could possibly compete with it as an end in deliberation so that someone who grasps the supreme good in its entirety cannot but choose to act for its sake, and it could not possibly be rational to choose anything else.  But if one merely sees some goal as ‘good’ without (yet) knowing the good in its entirety, one can also have other ends that one mistakenly takes as competing good ends. A further difficulty is that without a full grasp of what the good is, one would not expect the mere recognition that something is good to always motivate one to choose it.

In order to explain how rational choice works without presuming possession of full knowledge of the supreme good, I will argue that we should avoid assuming that knowledge of the good is sufficient for making rational choices. I will show that once the role of intrinsic desire for the good in rational choice is recognized,  we can respond to the above challenges without relying on the Grand End view. Returning to the contrast with Plato, Aristotle does not take moral education as a matter of philosophical instruction detailing what the good is, but of being habituated to do virtuous actions, and there is no short-cut that bypasses the need to learn through doing what is virtuous. In my view, it would also be wrong to think that once the habituation process is complete, the agent fully knows the good and all she does in making rational choices is to find means to this end in every deliberation. Instead, an intrinsic desire for the good is required to make a rational choice.  It is a problem for the Grand End view if it makes it solely a matter of reason to choose for the sake of the best. Reasoning about the means to this end would then not require that the reasoner desires the end of the virtuous person.  But prohairesis for Aristotle is about both desiring the right ends and having practical wisdom to decide on the basis of such desires.

Broadie criticizes the Humean view in which reason is not practical and desire alone is the source of motivation for action.But my account of the desire for the good is not Humean because the desire is not brute but is acquired by habituation with the intellect involved in perceiving the good in the ends that a person comes to desire. Although thought and desire (for the object of choice) are not separable components of choice, it is important to recognize that a desire for the good must be present for choice to be possible, and it is in having this desire that the agent’s action “proceed[s] from a firm and unchanging character.” It is not an intellectual grasp of a Grand End but a desire for the good, cultivated both in habituation and in the making of choices, that is needed for rationally choosing the constituents of the supreme good.

Christopher Frey, University of South Carolina: “Plato and Aristotle on What Desires Form”

Aristotle’s theory of coming to be involves three principles: (i) underlying subject (or matter), (ii) privation, and (iii) form. In Physics I.9, Aristotle claims that Plato and his followers fail to distinguish his first two principles. In addition to form, the Platonists countenance only one other principle that is both underlying subject and contrary to form.

One problem with the Platonists’ account, Aristotle argues, is that it can’t coherently identify what desires or reaches out towards the divine and good (192a16-25). Aristotle and Plato agree that there is such a good, that this good is form, and that there is something “which by nature desires and reaches towards it in accordance with its own nature.” They also agree that form cannot be what desires the good (i.e. the form itself) since form is complete and thereby not in need of anything. But the Platonists’ only remaining option is a principle that is ineliminably contrary to form. If this is what desires form, it would, in doing so, desire its own destruction. This result, Aristotle maintains, is absurd. One must properly distinguish privation and matter to identify what desires form. What desires form is matter.

In her recent commentary on this chapter, Sarah Broadie defends the Platonists’ dyadic account against this attack.1 Aristotle’s argument succeeds, says Broadie, only if “whatever tends towards some end E must in principle be able to arrive at E so as actually to become or possess it” (308). But the Platonist needn’t accept this claim and can, alternatively, insist that the contrary is “necessarily always only tending towards the good” without ever attaining it (308). That is, “it is perfectly in keeping with Platonism to view the very being of a subject as consisting precisely in an interminable becoming, i.e. an interminable reaching out towards the good or the form, and hence as essentially negative because always falling short of the end” (309). Moreover, Broadie argues that Aristotle himself embraces analogous positions in his discussions of the infinite and of celestial motion’s ultimate cause. If what underlies never attains the contrary form it desires, then the pursuit of this end won’t result in its own destruction. So Aristotle’s argument gives us “no reason to distinguish underlier from contrary since they never part company” (308).

I agree that the Platonist position Broadie defends is coherent. But I will argue that it fails to blunt the full force of Aristotle’s argument. This is so even if Aristotle adopts similar views that involve “interminable becoming.”

To desire is to be incomplete. What desires completion, what strives for the good that is the being form affords, is what underlies. Broadie’s Platonist still conceives the relationship between underlying subject and form in terms of contrariety. The extent to which what underlies desires a form, F, is precisely the extent to which it is not-F. To exemplify or realize F more fully or more completely is, for the Platonist, to become more F (or, more accurately, to become less not-F). Aristotle agrees that what desires completion is what underlies. But his conception of what underlies as matter doesn’t involve privation or contrariety. To exemplify or realize F more fully or more completely is not, for Aristotle, to become more F. It is to become a better F. When matter desires form it does not strive for something it is not; it reaches out toward what, in one manner of being, it already is.

I develop Aristotle’s account of natural movement as a variety of formal perfection and show that its absence in the Platonists’ dyadic theory is the proper target of Aristotle’s argument. The argument points to fundamental differences in how Aristotle and Plato conceive forms, in how they view the relationship between form and matter, and in what they think it is for a form to be a final cause.

Edward Halper, University of Georgia: “Grand Ends?”

Sarah Broadie famously argued that Aristotle has no grand ends in ethics. The conclusion has been challenged, of course, but discussion mostly centers on the question of whether or not human happiness, the ultimate human good, counts as a grand end. This paper aims not so much challenge Broadie’s conclusion but to contextualize it. Most of the Nicomachean Ethics envisions no grand end, but even there Aristotle subordinates ethics to politics. Keeping Broadie’s thesis in mind helps us to appreciate the significance of this subordination and the relation of ethics and politics. As Gauthier and Jolif noticed long ago, in the Nicomachean Ethics, Aristotle gives two accouts of each virtue, (a) one account focuses on the disposition of the feelings in respect of phronēsis, (b) the other account focuses on what someone with the virtue would canonically do. The brief account of happiness in 1.7 belongs among the (a) accounts of the virtues because it focuses on the soul’s disposition to act in accordance with phronēsis. There is no account of happiness in the NE that corresponds to the (b) activity accounts of individual virtues. The omission is all the more glaring when we note that Aristotle refers to one of two best lives (albeit the second best) as the political life. The NE does not describe the political activity of this life; indeed, it cannot because that will depend on the constitution of the state. Thus, it is in Politics that we find the grand ends. Every act of virtue aims not only to exercise the agent’s own faculties in accordance with phronesis (which does not necessarily determine a specific act), but also (1) to sustain the conditions under which this agent and others can continue to exercise moral virtues or, in other words, to sustain the state; but also (2) to make the state better, that is, closer to the ideal that Aristotle sets out in Politics 3.

Mary Krizan, University of Wisconsin-Lacrosse and National Humanities Center:” Distinguishing Principles in Aristotle’s Elemental Transformations”

In her incredibly influential contribution to the XVth Symposium Aristotelicum on Aristotle’s On Generation and Corruption, Book I, Sarah Broadie offers perhaps the clearest formulation of a particular account of Aristotle’s elemental transformations that denies the existence of prime matter, as traditionally conceived. In this paper, I examine one of the primary issues for explaining Aristotle’s account of the elemental transformations – his account of change in Physics 1.6-9 – and argue that an extension of this account to accommodate the elemental transformations results in an interpretation different from those of both Broadie and the tradition.

Traditionally, defenders of prime matter have claimed that a wholly indeterminate substratum is necessary in order to accommodate the changes from one simple body (e.g. fire) into the next (e.g. air). Evidence for this position is supposedly found in a passage in On Generation and Corruption 2.1, in which Aristotle explicitly claims that there are three principles: (1) potentially perceptible body, (2) the primary contraries (hot, cold, wet, and dry), and (3) the simple bodies (earth, air, fire, and water). According to the tradition, (1) must be prime matter, and this contention is further supported by Aristotle’s account of change in Physics 1.7. Broadie, in contrast, denies that (1) must be prime matter: rather, she claims that the simple bodies perform two different roles in the case of the elemental transformations. The simple bodies thus function as both principles (1) and (3): there is no need for prime matter because the simple bodies are also the perishing hupokeimena of substantial changes between one another. Her account thus differs from the tradition because it denies prime matter; it also differs from denials of prime matter proposed by Mary Louise Gill, Montgomery Furth, and Eric Lewis, whom (in various ways) treat the primary contraries as hupokeimena. Broadie is right to point out that Aristotle’s analysis of change in Physics 1.7 cannot adequately explain the elemental transformations. Nonetheless, I do not think that an expansion of the account to include elemental transformations requires him to treat simple bodies as the hupokeimena of their changes. Rather, I contend, the three principles in On Generation and Corruption 2.1 are indeed distinct: potentially perceptible body is not the same as either the primary contraries or the simple bodies. I differ from the traditional interpretation, however, by denying that the first principle is prime matter, in the sense of some kind of amorphous stuff. Rather, I argue that the first principle is a feature of language: it only has a role in the logical analysis of change, while in fact, simple bodies are constituted by primary contraries.

In the first section of the paper, I introduce a reading of Aristotle’s account of change in Physics 1.6-9 that will help explain the inadequacy of this account when applied to the case of the elemental transformations. Physics 1.7 offers an account of the ways we speak about change; when we talk about alteration, we discuss a subject receiving different contraries, and when we talk about substantial change, the contraries are the privation, form, and subject. In one way, there are three principles, but in another way there are only two – the subject and form. In Physics 1.9, Aristotle extends the account from Physics 1.7 to include matter. Now, he is thinking about matter in two ways: first, as the combination of the subject and privation, and second, as the matter that constitutes a thing. Matter in the first sense does not survive the change, whereas matter in the second sense remains as a constituent.

In the second section of the paper, I work through a passage in On Generation and Corruption 1.3 that seems to demonstrate Aristotle’s awareness of the inadequacy of the Physics 1.6-9 account of change for explaining the elemental transformations. I argue that the Physics 1.6-9 account, and specifically the extension of the account to incorporate matter, is inadequate because there is nothing that can function as both a persisting substratum and a constituent for simple bodies. In easy cases, such as the generation of a bronze statue, there is a bit of an equivocation between matter as constituent and subject in the analysis of language; after all, ‘bronze’ refers to a material, specifically, the material that constitutes a statue. In the case of simple bodies, the subject that functions as part of linguistic analysis and the material that constitutes an element cannot be the same. Aristotle’s problem for explaining the elemental transformations in GC 1.3, 319a29-b5, as well as his final solution, offers evidence that there is a distinction between matter as subject (a linguistic principle) and matter as constituent. In the third part of the paper, I employ Aristotle’s various distinctions in types of matter in order to explain the elemental transformations. Physics 1.6-9 shows that there is a distinction between [M1] non-persisting matter that incidentally contains the privation and [MS] matter as subject; however, Physics 1.9 treats [MS] matter as subject as identical to [M2] the matter that constitutes a substance or quasi-substance. On Generation and Corruption 1.3 introduces evidence that, in the special case of the elemental transformations, [MS] matter as subject is not identical to [M2] the matter that constitutes a substance or quasi-substance. Accordingly, there are three principles: (1) matter as subject; (2) matter that constitutes a perceptible body; and (3) matter that contains a privation. I argue that these principles align with those set out in On Generation and Corruption 2.1. Matter that contains a privation and does not survive substantial change, or [M1], is just the simple bodies themselves; the matter that constitutes a perceptible body, or [M2], is one of the primary contraries, depending upon one’s place in the cycle of change; and matter as subject or [MS] is what Aristotle calls ‘potentially perceptible body’. Given that matter as subject arises from a conflation between ways of speaking and physical or metaphysical principles, matter in this sense is not prime matter as traditionally conceived; rather, it is an empty subject in language, perhaps analogous to a logical atom.

Jessica Moss, NYU: “The Demiurge and the Philosopher-Kings

In Nature and Divinity in Plato’s Timaeus, Sarah Broadie presents a compelling account of the Timaeus’ famous claim that the best account we can give of the perceptible cosmos is an eikos muthos, “likely story”.  Broadie interprets this as follows: although the perceptible realm is a realm of becoming rather than Being, and hence cannot be the subject of the best kind of knowledge, it has been crafted by a craftsman (the Demiurge) who uses a divine model, and therefore we can have views about it that are eikos (reasonable, likely).  She gives an interpretation on which eikos views are superior to ordinary opinions about the perceptible realm, which are wholly disordered and irrational, and always subject to refutation.

Broadie presents this view as one that would cause some surprise to readers of the Republic, which seems to imply that the perceptible realm is epistemically worthless.  I want to argue however that the Republic presents a strikingly parallel view.  Philosopher-rulers will mold the city and the citizens using the Forms as divine models (484c-d, 500e-501b).  Thus the best city –like the Timaeus’ entire perceptible realm – is an image of a divine model.  Thus it too can be the subject of something superior to ordinary opinions, although only for those who already have full knowledge of the models – that is, the philosopher-rulers themselves.  This is a noteworthy finding, for it resolves a worry many have had about the Republic’s epistemology.  Plato clearly holds that rulers need knowledge (epistêmê) in order to rule well, but also seems to hold that the perceptible realm is too disordered and ontologically inferior to be itself the subject of epistêmê.  If he holds that the philosopher-rulers are able to have eikos views about the perceptible realm, in virtue of their knowledge of the model, those worries should be set to rest.

The aim of my paper is to use Broadie’s account of the Timaeus to illuminate an interpretative debate about the Republic, although I will also to enter into the debate about how to interpret the Timaeus, at a few points dissenting from Broadie’s account.

Christiana Olfert, Tufts University: “Deliberating About Practical Truth”

Aristotle holds that deliberation is a sort of inquiry (zêtesis ti).   As a rational activity, it is an inquiry that aims to discover truths.   Specifically, deliberation aims to discover truths about the prakton agathon: what is good and doable for us.   And even more specifically, it aims to discover truths about what is good and doable that are true in advance of our actions.  After all, “no one deliberates about the past … but rather about what is to come [tou esomenou], [endechomenou]” (1139b7).   In the Nicomachean Ethics, we find that these are all constraints on genuine deliberation.  Deliberation, as a genuinely rational activity, seeks the truth.  And as a genuinely practical kind of reasoning, deliberation seeks truths that can guide our actions and can make a difference to what we eventually do.

But here we find a difficulty.  Are there any truths about our future actions that are true in advance of our doing them?  Another famous Aristotelian discussion of truth suggests that there are not.  In De Interpretatione 9, Aristotle argues that thoughts and assertions of the form “X will be Y,” where this describes a future state of affairs which may or may not come to be, are neither true nor false.  This is because “statements are true according to how the facts are” (19a34).   Right now, there is no fact of the matter about whether a future contingent action or event is the case, because its contingency means that it may or may not come about in the future, and is not determined by current facts (19a27-33).  So if, according to current facts, future contingents are neither the case nor not the case, the current truth-value of our thoughts and statements about future contingents is neither true nor false.  Moreover, this must be the case precisely in order for genuine deliberation to be possible (18b31-36, 19a7-22).  After all, if there were truths now about what I might do later, then what I do later would have been predetermined, and there is no genuine deliberation about what is necessary, because there is nothing we can do about such things.

Given all of this, how should we understand the connection between deliberation and truth in Aristotle?  In what sense do we deliberate about the truth?  The answer, I propose, is part of Aristotle’s account of practical truth.  I argue that deliberation is an inquiry into a specifically practical kind of truth.  What is practical truth?  There are several different answers to this question in the literature; Professor Broadie has given an account in two places.   But one point that a range of different answers can agree on is this: if deliberation is an inquiry that is both rational and practical, practical truth is the proper object of deliberation.   So my question amounts to this: In order for genuine Aristotelian deliberation to be possible, are there practical truths which are true in advance of our actions, and which guide and shape what we do?

I take this to be a metaphysical question, to which I will give a metaphysical answer.  There are indeed practical truths that are true in advance of our future contingent actions.  This is because what makes practical truths true, and what deliberation inquires into, is a certain sort of potentiality: the potentiality for something good to be realized in action.  In Aristotle’s terms, this potentiality is a practical good – a prakton agathon.

The idea that practical truths are made true by potentialities explains how we can deliberate about them.

First, potentialities are not mere future contingents.  They exist in the present even if they are not actual in the present.  As such, the argument of De Interpretatione 9 does not deny that there can be truths now – in advance of our actions – about potentialities that will be actualized later.  The fact that potentialities for action exist now does not mean that our future actions are predetermined now.  And this, for Aristotle, makes it possible for us to genuinely deliberate about which of these potential actions we should realize.

Second, potentialities are defined by their correlative actualities.   So when we deliberate about a currently unactualized potentiality, we are deliberating about a potentiality for a future actualization.  This allows us to say that what we deliberate about is a future prospect of a sort – namely, the future prospective actualization of a currently real potentiality.  This preserves the idea that genuine deliberation is about, not merely what we can do now, but what we will do in the future.

If we understand practical-truth-makers as potentialities, then, this reconciles Aristotle’s remarks about deliberation and truth in the Nicomachean Ethics and De Interpretatione.  It also gives us a new and improved understanding of Aristotle’s notion of practical truth.  Practical truths – at least the ones about which we deliberate – have a coherent metaphysical underpinning: they are made true by a certain kind of practical good, namely a potentiality for something good to be done by the agent.

This is a technical answer to the question: In what sense do we deliberate about the truth?  Still, a technical answer doesn’t necessarily make good sense.  So I suggest, further, that we should understand the truth-makers of our deliberative practical truths as being opportunities of a certain sort.  Specifically, they are opportunities to realize something valuable in action.  Opportunities share key features with Aristotelian potentialities.  They are a certain class of possibility; they are teleologically structured toward an actuality or realization that they are an opportunity for; they can be realized or actualized, but need not be in order to be real; and they can be bearers of value.  Aristotelian deliberation, then, is an inquiry into the truth about our practical opportunities.  This conclusion not only illuminates the Aristotelian notions of deliberation and practical truth; it also helps to develop an attractive Aristotelian notion of an opportunity for action.

Aparna Ravilochan, University of Chicago: “Following Broadie to a Revision of Natural Efficient Cause”


In her 1987 article “Nature, Craft, and Phronesis in Aristotle,” Broadie considers the philosopher’s “characteristic appeal to the notion of craft (techne) as analogue for his conception of nature (physis)” (36). Aristotle’s analogy, meant to illustrate the teleology at work in natural causation, is notoriously difficult and has, understandably, been a source of much interpretive perplexity. In this paper, I will demonstrate how Broadie’s insights can help clarify a particularly difficult case in which nature is likened to craft: sexual reproduction in animals.

Traditional interpretations of Aristotle’s theory in Generation of Animals have maintained that if sexual reproduction is to proceed as craft does, then semen, as efficient cause, must craft menses into an animal embryo just as a craftsman shapes stone or lumber into an artifact. Such an interpretation, however, gives rise to two major problems. First, it leads to the conclusion that form comes solely from the male; some scholars go so far as to suggest that it is actually the particular father’s form that is transmitted to a nascent offspring. But these assertions are difficult to square with the empirical facts of maternal resemblance in animals. Secondly, and perhaps more gravely, the interpretation treats semen as the teleologically motivated agent while denying menses a purposive role. For Aristotle, I will argue, teleology is not concentrated in the (efficient) agent, but is distributed among the four causes.


Starting from Broadie’s interpretive modification of “craft” as a nondeliberative, disembodied cause, I follow her reasoning toward a resolution of these dilemmas.

As Broadie suggests, the techne on which natural causation is modeled is unfamiliar in that it is totally de-psychologized: Broadie notes, “Even the term [‘craft’] is a misnomer, since the true referent is not craft as we actually find it in human craftsmen, but end-directed automation” (49). Aristotle himself draws on the example of automation in his account of embryonic development, since there becoming takes place as an unfolding of successive purposive events, not the painstaking creation of an artifact. This distinction suggests that it is not the craftsman who serves as efficient cause so much as the craft itself—the body of procedural knowledge whose execution results in the desired end. If this is so, then craft should be the most proximate efficient cause, and Aristotle indeed suggests as much in Physics II.3 (195b22-29). But in the coming-to-be of natural things, the analogue of “craft” is “nature,” so that when efficient causation is understood as the craft more than as the craftsman, the corresponding result is a conception of animal generation in which it is not semen but nature—in fact, I argue, the embryo’s own nature—that must most properly be defined as the efficient cause of reproduction.

This is not to say that semen does not play an efficient role, of course—but its role, though temporally prior, is metaphysically subordinate to the agency of the embryonic nature and should be most accurately read as a kind of auxiliary efficient cause. To this end, I propose that natural becoming be viewed as proceeding in two distinct stages: the first stage, “setting” of the embryo, effected by the semen, and the second stage, “development,” governed by no external, intelligent source, but instead by the embryo’s own nature. After all, it is the creature to whom the teleology belongs, not some universal “Nature”; As Broadie puts it, the goal is not “that there should be a frog,” say, but “to become a frog” (41).

This revision of natural efficient causation has a number of consequences. If the embryo is to possess the principle of its own development, and the semen does not “craft” the embryo, then

the reason that an animal comes to be cannot be because its soul and form are delivered by the semen alone. Instead, the menses, qua potential, and semen, qua agent, give rise to a hylomorph in the activity of actualizing—the teleology is achieved by the conjunction of the causes rather than by the imposition of one cause onto another.


For this reason, though Broadie believes the tortured craft analogy fails to illuminate natural teleology in the direction that Aristotle intends, I disagree. The craft analogy succeeds precisely because it uses a strange and unfamiliar notion of craft: one whose infallible and non-deliberating craftsman recalls the Platonic Demiurge of the Timaeus. Aristotle’s attempt to infuse demiurgic power and precision into the common “pre-reflective” conception of arts like carpentry and sculpture results in the strangely tortured craft we see in his natural philosophy. But, I argue, only such a version of techne can truly illustrate what natural teleology means by its reworking of the Platonic model. As Broadie notes in the first chapter of Nature and Divinity in Plato’s Timaeus, Plato’s picture of causation is triadic, involving cause, materials, and product (10). For Plato, intelligence is located in the cause—that is, the Demiurge—alone. Aristotle’s use of the craft analogy contorts this picture such that the “intelligence” involved in becoming gets democratized—it is distributed among his four causes. Purpose is dragged out of the craftsman alone and inserted into the craft and into the matter, such that an organism’s living material is itself a robust teleological center rather than an inert receptacle. The innovation Aristotle introduces that an individual nature bears, pace Broadie, not only the principle but also the impulse (horme) of its change, marks a revolutionary shift from divine causation to natural teleology.

Naomi Reshotko, University of Denver: “Anagnke in Plato’s Timeaus”

I will argue that the relationships among Plato’s Forms, as portrayed in all of his dialogues, but particularly in the Timaeus, are neither necessary nor contingent. Although ‘contingent’ comes closer to capturing their relationship than ‘necessary’ does. I will also argue that Plato’s use of anagnke in the Timeaus is best understood as ‘the given’ rather than as some sort of logical, formal, or material necessity in our contemporary logical parlance.

It is common for contemporary interpreters to assume that Plato thinks we can come to know the Forms through analysis of their necessary and sufficient properties. However, a close look at these abstract objects forces us to conclude that ‘properties’ of Forms will simply be further Forms. This is the case not only in the Republic V-X, the Cratylus, the Theaetetus, the Sophist, and the Timaeus, but also in the Socratic dialogues that ask ‘what is x?’ questions about virtues. I assume that Plato eventually develops the view that abstract objects like ‘justice’ are Forms. When we attempt to know a particular Form, we are really trying to discover the other forms to which that form holds a law-like relationship, and the nature of those relationships.

In the Timeaus, Plato introduces the Receptacle as the place where instantiations of Forms occur. After a preliminary tour of what some of these other dialogues portray about relationships among the Forms, I will show that Timaeus 48e-52b makes sense of, and solidifies, these discussions by showing that the only identifying properties Forms have are their relations to one another. Forms are not compositional elements of one another. In fact, it appears that Forms do not have internal elements or properties. Forms are entities that give a certain region of the Receptacle a particular X-ness. Other than that, we can only know that each Form is a potential or actual property of one or more composite instantiations in the Receptacle. Any notion that a Form possesses a property is to be analyzed as a relation between that Form and other Forms. This relationship will be a particular Form’s actual or potential co-existence with each of the other Forms that is instantiated in the Receptacle.

In the dialogues that discuss becoming (Republic and Theaetetus) and in the analysis of false statement in the Sophist, we begin to surmise that Forms get instantiated when partaken in by something spatial or material. However, only Timaeus 48e-52b introduces and discusses the Receptacle. This is the only time Plato specifies an explicit ‘third’ kind of being in addition to Forms and particulars. Here, we see the creation of becomers through the weaving together of the Forms in the Receptacle. We are cautioned that it is never safe to call anything that we have singled out a “this” rather than a “such.” What we have taken to be perceptible things (nouns) like “fire” are, in this part of the Timaeus, reduced to temporary properties (adjectives) of some underlying thing (this part of the Receptacle is “fire-y”).

The Timaeus is a long and complicated dialogue. We must understand the relationship between the demiurge (a force of reason and intelligence) and the three kinds of being (Forms, perceptibles, and Receptacle) discussed at 48e-52b before we can come to terms with the interactions between the demiurge and anagnke. Plato introduces the demiurge at the beginning of the Timeaus as a force that creates the world from existing materials that are not organized. However, at 48a7-b3, Plato has Timaeus make a second beginning. Here, Timaeus peels away the efforts of the demiurge in order to discuss the nature of what lies underneath his efforts. He describes the nature of what the demiurge is trying to persuade and coax into the best and most beautiful order. In her Nature and Divinity in Plato’s Timaeus, Sarah Broadie makes the case for separating the nature of the demiurge’s materials from the results of his craft. She also, importantly, argues that Plato is showing that the demiurge is working with materials that already have their own natures. I will agree with Broadie and rely on her interpretation of this passage, to show that the Forms have unexplainable law-like relationships with one another. The demiurge creates, but the nature of his materials place constraints on what he can do with them.2 Furthermore, I will argue that the natures possessed by these materials are simply a result of the unchanging, nomological— but illogical—interweavings of the Forms in the Receptable that make-up the world that the demiurge finds. This world is ‘the given.’ The demiurge’s designs result from what he can coax anagnke into doing. However, the demiurge is working with pre-determined properties that can and cannot co-exist with other properties in ways that he cannot change.

It does not make sense to say that these relationships are necessary. ‘Necessity’ implies that the relationships among the Forms are inevitable. An inevitable relationship would have to come from some inherent, non-relational property that each has. The number two is necessarily greater than the number one because of the number of internal units each possesses. I am inevitably the biological mother of my biological daughter because I have genes inside of me that contributed to her inherent genetic make-up. In contrast, as described in the Timeaus, fire is a place in the Receptacle where a many Forms coincide, and nothing more. They came into existence, or always existed, with the external law-like relationships that allow for that coincidence. Heat and redness are not components of fire, but co-occur with it in the Receptacle in certain inevitable patterns. There is no rhyme or reason for this. It is an unchangeable coincidence that is predetermined by the law-like relationships among these elements. It is a ‘given,’ but it is not necessary. It could have been otherwise, but it will not be otherwise. The defining relationships among the Forms—the ones that allow us to know them—don’t change. That is what allows Forms to be knowable, according to Plato. Since these relationships cannot change, it is odd to call them contingent. However, contingency does capture the earlier feature that I mentioned: there is nothing inherent in any Form that explains why it has, or that forces it to have, the law-like relationships with other Forms that it does.

Daniel Wolt, Bilkent University: “Phronêsis and Kalokagathia in Eudemian Ethics VIII 3”

At the very end of the Eudemian Ethics Aristotle discusses a virtue that he calls kalokagathia, which may be translated literally but clumsily as ‘nobility-and-goodness’, but which I will leave untranslated, since this term does not correspond neatly to any term in English. On the face of it, kalokagathia appears to be quite important. In fact, Aristotle goes so far as to identify kalokagathia with complete virtue (VIII 3, 1249a16-17). It is a pity, then, that most scholars of Aristotle’s ethics have not devoted much attention to it, Sarah Broadie being an admirable exception.

Although Aristotle says at the beginning of the chapter that kalokagathia comes “from” (ek, 1248b10) the other virtues, Broadie argues that this should not be understood to mean that kalokagathia is simply the condition that results from having all the virtues. In fact, she goes on to argue that later on in the chapter, when Aristotle contrasts the merely agathos (“good”) person with the kalos kagathos (viz. the person who has kalokagathia), Aristotle intends a contrast between ordinary virtue and a superior condition, which Broadie calls “refined virtue”.

I follow Broadie in rejecting the idea that kalokagathia simply consists in having the virtues of character, but I argue for an alternate way of reading the distinction between the agathos and the kalos kagathos. I argue that the distinction is better understood by reference to the distinction found in Nicomachean Ethics VI 13 between natural virtue (phusikê aretê) and genuine virtue (kuria aretê). Although the two distinctions are not the same, I argue that they are meant to do the same work: in both texts Aristotle is trying to a provide a characterization of the ideally virtuous agent in such a way as to respect the idea that there is a single unified condition characteristic of such a person, and in doing so he distinguishes the condition of the genuinely virtuous agent from conditions that are inferior to genuine virtue but which are liable to be confused with it (“natural virtue” in NE VI and agathia in EE 8.3). The differenceis that while in EE 8.3 what distinguishes the genuinely virtuous agent, the kalos kagathos, is her attitude towards noble things (ta kala), in NE VI 13, what distinguishes the virtuous agent is her practical wisdom (phronêsis).


For those traveling directly to Milwaukee:

For information on Mitchell International Airport, click here, and for ground transportation from the Airport, click here.  Expect a taxi ride from the Airport to either the University or the Hotel to cost ca. $ 25-30.  Lyft and Uber are also available.

For those traveling to Chicago first:

If you fly into Chicago's O'Hare Airport, the most convenient way to get to Milwaukee is to take the shuttle bus "Coach USA" that rides hourly from early morning to late night.  The ride takes 90 minutes.  It is advised that you buy tickets ahead (online).  From the drop-off location downtown (by the Amtrak Train Station), it is best to take a taxi cab to the hotel or university (ca. $ 10).

General Information for Visitors to Milwaukee:

For more information on what Milwaukee has to offer, click here

For information about the Milwaukee Art Museum, including the building and the Calatrava-designed Burke Brise Soleil, click here.

Another Kleinod to see in Milwaukee is the newly opened Jewish Museum, which details, among other things, Jewish life in Milwaukee, the city in which Golda Meir was born. 

While at Marquette, you should also see the Haggerty Museum on campus.

Click here for a map of downtown Milwaukee.

Milwaukee also has an excellent restaurant selection.  Check here for a general overview, although we will provide a list of recommend venues, both close to campus as well as downtown.


A close walk from the Ambassador Hotel is the Pabst Mansion, somewhere between a Century Graceland and Mar a Lago of the Gilded Age.

Close walks from Marquette include the Chudnow Museum of Yesteryear , full of everyday objects from the 20's and 30's, and the Milwaukee Public Museum, a fine natural history museum.

Other useful links: 

Marquette University

Marquette University Philosophy Department

Sensenbrenner Hall, Marquette University

Eisenberg Room

Second Floor

Marquette Hall,

Marquette University